At the start of Russia’s full-blown invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Ukraine’s air defense intercepted only around 12–18% of Russian cruise missiles, according to a report by the RUSI think tank. Now, in the best of days, this indicator reaches 88%.
Russia’s shock attack started with mass missile strikes from sea, air, and ground launch systems, which were preceded by electronic attacks that damaged Ukraine’s radars. This all presented a challenge for Ukraine’s air defense.
“Given the orders to redeploy Ukrainian forces [seven hours before the invasion], the damage and disruption to [command and control], the unexpected concentration on the Gomel axis, and the forced displacement of systems, many Ukrainian systems were alive, but uncoordinated for the initial 24 hours. A significant proportion of the air-defense infrastructure survived but was not in a position to conduct a coordinated defence. Instead, it largely delivered pop-up attacks against Russian forces,” RUSI notes.
However, Russia with time and with the influx of western air defense weapons, Ukraine got better at shooting down Russian cruise missiles: during the best days, it reaches 88%.